The origin story of Pennridge Animal Hospital – Part 1, as told by Dr. Beth
Though this blog is going to primarily focus on Harley’s Haven and our mission work, I can’t do those stories justice without including this one. The sister to our rescue, is our vet practice. We have started and built a small animal practice in Perkasie, PA and this is the base of operation for our rescue. Though they are separate entities, their stories are certainly interwoven….so here begins the story of how Pennridge Animal Hospital got its humble beginnings.
I was pregnant with my son, Connor, as I graduated vet school in 2010. No, this was not planned, but it was also not scandalous, I was already happily married at the time. It was just incredibly unfortunate timing as far as graduating and starting out into the working world. Being hired at 5 months pregnant is not exactly ideal for any business, as far as new hires go, and didn’t really fit with my plan of being a mixed animal veterinarian. However, as I truly believe everything happens for a reason, being pregnant is what led me to my first job where I met Dr Jennifer Heller.
Working together at this fast-paced, high volume, small animal practice we became good friends and it was during this time that we started Harley’s Haven together (along with a few other amazing ladies). When I changed jobs just under 2 years later and there was opportunity for ownership and they needed another vet, it was only natural that I reached out to Jen and she made the leap to the new practice as well. The second practice was a MESS – high turnover of staff and clients, and no real leadership. Jen and I rolled up our sleeves and turned the practice around over the next year, all while casually negotiating the potential to purchase.
In early 2013, we started to get the feeling we were being strung along – though the owner claimed he was still going to sell to us, he was resistant to put anything on paper, and also to move forward at all with any real negotiations. Starting to suspect that perhaps this was not going to pan out, Jen and I began looking into other options and met with a lawyer to investigate starting our own practice. Looking back, I’m so thankful we started that ball rolling when we did as August brought the sudden announcement that the practice was being sold to a corporation in 2 weeks and we had the option of signing on with the corporation, or lose our jobs.
Over a bottle of wine, and perhaps several tears (ok LOTS of tears)….we decided that we just could not stay and did not want to work for a corporation – so we quit. The next day, we launched a Facebook page with our tentative practice name – Pennridge Animal Hospital - and THAT DAY we saw 2 appointments.
The early days of Pennridge were an interesting time – we bought Jen’s parent’s old mini van (who we affectionately dubbed ‘Wanda’) for $1 and used that as our base of operations. We had NOTHING. No money, no jobs, no location, no supplies….those first few appointments we scrambled from supplies we had at home for our own dogs,
and called in medications to a human pharmacy. We frantically reached out to our reps and got some basics ordered, and used waitress carbon copy pads as our bills. For each appointment we would decide before we arrived, ‘Are you going to be the vet today, or shall I?’ Often this decision was made in the
most professional manner possible, with a good old-fashioned game of rock, paper, scissors. The loser would be the technician for the appointment. At the end of each appointment, we would excuse ourselves to our office (aka Wanda), and would hand write, totally made-up pricing to then take back and present to the client.
We had a non-compete with our previous practice, so any clients who called us and lived within a 5 mile radius, we had to explain that we could not come to them and why – we would offer to meet people in a parking lot instead, and PEOPLE ACTUALLY DID THIS. There are several appointments I vividly remember where we would be in a parking lot examining a dog, or Jen even did a few cats! I had one client come to my house and I did an enema on my dining room table (much to my husband’s dismay). The willingness of our clients to see beyond the ridiculousness of our situation…to this day, this makes my heart swell with pride. Driving around with just Jen and I, in good old Wanda – those were days that I will remember fondly forever. Yes, it was nonsense, and yes it was not very professional, but damn…it was fun.
Part 2 to follow next week!